Cancer is deadly because it doesn’t stay in just one area of the body. It spreads – often quickly – to affect vital organs. The growing and replicating tumors overwhelm the organs, which stop functioning, which causes the body to shut down.
Mesothelioma, one of the rarest and deadliest cancers, is no different. In fact, it spreads quicker than most other cancers. Many people are diagnosed in stage 3 or stage 4 (late stages) due to the speed of tumors growing and multiplying, and the initial scans show mesothelioma tumors in distant areas such as the brain or spinal cord.
These are examples of mesothelioma metastasis, but you should know all of them as you or a loved one prepares to fight this cancer.
Defining Mesothelioma Metastasis
Where does mesothelioma spread? Where does mesothelioma metastasize? These are important questions for patients to ask their doctor. Knowing how mesothelioma spreads and which areas are most at risk is important for setting expectations and having a strong base of knowledge about the fight ahead.
First, let’s define the medical term “metastasis” for everyone. Metastasis is the spread of cancer to other areas of the body. Mesothelioma metastasis refers to the spread of mesothelioma cancer to different regions.
Mesothelioma begins in the mesothelial linings, which are thin layers of tissue surrounding organ cavities. One mesothelial lining is the pleura, which is a thin lining that separates the lung cavity and chest wall. Another mesothelial lining is the peritoneum, which wraps around the abdominal cavity.
When mesothelioma spreads far beyond these linings and past the lung cavity and abdominal cavity, the cancer has metastasized.
Mesothelioma Metastasis Changes for Different Types
Mesothelioma spreads to different areas of the body based on the type of mesothelioma. Most people with mesothelioma have pleural mesothelioma (80%). This cancer forms in the pleura, which is near the lungs. Almost all of the remaining cases are peritoneal mesothelioma (20%), which starts in the peritoneum, the linings that guards the abdominal cavity.
The pleural is a flexible coating of tissue and fluid allows the organs to expand safely against the chest. Metastasis occurs when tumors reach the lungs, heart, spine, brain and more. Mesothelioma brain metastasis or mesothelioma spine metastasis are usually signs of stage 4 cancer.
The peritoneum is a protective coating of tissue and fluid around the abdominal cavity’s many organs, including the:
- Small intestine
- Large intestine
Where Does Pleural Mesothelioma Metastasize?
The proximity of the pleura to the lung cavity is why the lungs are usually the first organ affected by pleural mesothelioma. Doctors may determine the stage of mesothelioma based on if tumors have reached the lungs, and how much of the lung is covered in cancer.
When pleural mesothelioma reaches the lungs, doctors may recommend a surgery to remove one of the lungs. This is called extrapleural pneumonectomy for mesothelioma.
Pleural mesothelioma can also spread in the other direction: toward the chest wall. If tumors invade the chest wall, they can be difficult to remove with surgery.
Pleural mesothelioma tumors reach distant areas through the lymph nodes in or near the lung cavity. The lymphatic system is responsible for tissue drainage, fat transportation and immune response. For instance, lymph nodes release white blood cells (such as T cells) that are in charge of fighting diseases and keeping the body healthy.
Tumors can reach lymph nodes and use the lymphatic system to travel to other areas. Mesothelioma tumors also metastasize via the bloodstream.
Some of the distant areas where pleural mesothelioma spreads to are the:
- Adrenal glands
- Central nervous system (spine)
In a study of 171 cases, the liver was the most common organ or area showing mesothelioma metastasis. It occurred in 55.9% of cases. Other areas occurred in the following percent of cases:
- Adrenal glands (31.3%)
- Kidneys (30.1%)
- Brain (3%)
One case even had mesothelioma spread to the tongue. Another had tumors in the thyroid gland. The esophagus is another area where tumors may reach if it’s a fast-spreading and late-stage (stage 4) mesothelioma.
Where Does Peritoneal Mesothelioma Metastasize?
The abdominal cavity’s construction limits how far peritoneal mesothelioma can spread. However, the abdominal cavity includes quite a few organs, some vital and very much in this cancer’s path.
Any of the organs in the abdominal cavity are in danger of being overrun by tumors. They include the spleen, small and large intestines, kidneys, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and stomach. Women’s abdomens have their ovaries and uterus as well.
Some of these organs can be removed safely during surgery. For instance, the spleen is often removed during cytoreduction for peritoneal mesothelioma. Other organs cannot be taken out, though.
If tumors escape the abdominal cavity, they can reach the lungs, heart, thyroid and brain.
Learn More About How Mesothelioma Spreads, and Other Information
Knowing where mesothelioma spreads is just one useful piece of information for patients, family members, doctors, caregivers and others. There are many important aspects about this cancer that you should know before meeting your mesothelioma specialist, starting treatment, or asking about palliative care.
Mesothelioma Guide has a print resource that we can mail to you or email in .pdf form. This is called our Complete Mesothelioma Guide. It has information on finding a specialist, knowing the different treatment options, and even whether you can receive compensation from the VA or asbestos manufacturing companies for your cancer.
If you’d like a copy of our Complete Mesothelioma Guide for yourself, a friend, or a loved one, visit this page and fill out the fields with your name, address, email address and phone number. Once you send us this information, we will begin preparing a packet of useful materials to send immediately to you.
Sources & Author
Sources & Author